More than 1,000 students will graduate from St. John Fisher College during its 64th commencement, which will begin at 9:30 a.m. on May 12, 2018 at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester.
Fisher alumnus George A. Lopez, ’72, founding faculty of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, will deliver the keynote address during the ceremony, which will see baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral students receive their diplomas.
“We are honored to have George return to Fisher and serve as our Commencement keynote speaker,” said Gerard J. Rooney, president of the college. “He is a highly regarded authority on international diplomacy, and his work has impacted the globe. His lifelong commitment to peace studies is reflective of the college’s motto and mission and to have an alumnus of his stature address this generation of Fisher graduates is a source of pride for our institution.”
Lopez, who is the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., professor emeritus of peace studies at the Kroc Institute, is a leading expert on economic sanctions, peacebuilding, human rights and the United Nations. Throughout his 40-year career, his work in these areas has taken him to 20 countries.
For nearly two years, Lopez served as the vice president of the Academy for International Conflict Management and Peacebuilding at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., and prior to that served on the UN Panel of Experts for monitoring and implementing UN Sanctions on North Korea. He held a Jennings Randolph Senior Fellowship at USIP focused on new dimensions of sanctions policy and was a senior research associate at the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs in New York City, where he assisted in the council’s post- 9-11 public programming throughout the U.S.
A prolific author and commentator, Lopez has written 45 articles and book chapters, as well as co-authored or co-edited 11 books, including “The Sanctions Decade: Assessing UN Strategies in the 1990s” and “Putting Teeth in the Tiger: Improving the Effectiveness of Arms Embargoes.” He has offered commentary or guest editorials on issues of peace, violence, economic sanctions or human rights on dozens of major U.S. and international news outlets, including CNN, Fox News, NPR, BBC, Japan Times and Bloomberg, among others. From 2004 to 2006, he wrote a monthly column on world affairs for the Sunday edition of La Opinion.
Over the course of his career, he has be given numerous awards, including the 2017 Distinguished Scholar Award — Peace Studies Section, given by the International Studies Association. Of the four major teaching awards he received at Notre Dame, the most significant was the 2008 Frank O’Malley Teaching Award for Outstanding Mentoring and Teaching of Undergraduates in the University of Notre Dame College of Arts and Letters.
During Fisher’s commencement ceremony, Lopez will receive an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.
“I’m truly humbled by the invitation to speak to the graduates and to receive an honorary degree from Fisher,” said Lopez, who studied history while at Fisher and earned a master’s and doctoral degree from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. “Every goal and any accomplishment I may have had as an academic or a practitioner comes from the personal, spiritual and academic growth that was cultivated in me at Fisher. Many times it became clear to me that goodness, discipline, and knowledge are a combination that can go a long way to making the world a better place.”
Also receiving an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters is outgoing board of trustees Chairman Martin K. Birmingham, recognizing his dedication and commitment to the college as a member of the board of trustees for the last 17 years. This June will mark the end of his two-year term as chair of the board.
Birmingham serves as president and chief executive officer of Financial Institutions Inc. and its subsidiary, Five Star Bank. He spent the last decade with the company and was promoted to president and CEO in March 2013. The locally headquartered company employs about 700 associates and provides banking, insurance and investment management services through its subsidiaries throughout Western and Central New York State.
Prior to joining Five Star Bank, Birmingham served as president and CEO of the National Bank of Geneva and prior to that, spent 15 years with Fleet Bank/Bank of America.
An engaged member of the Rochester community, he sits on several additional organization boards including the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council, AAA of Central and Western New York Inc., Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, Monroe Community College Foundation, Holy Sepulchre Cemetery and the University of Rochester Medical Center.
His past community involvement also includes work with St. Ann’s of Greater Rochester Foundation, Strong National Museum of Play and the United Way of Greater Rochester, among others. A member of the Workforce Investment Board from 2001 to 2009, he was appointed chair of the board by the mayor and county executive in 2003 and 2007.
Birmingham holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University and earned his Master of Business Administration from the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School.
During the commencement ceremony, Holli Budd, executive director of the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation, will receive a President’s Medal in recognition of her stewardship of one of upstate New York’s private foundations for the last seven years.
Under Budd’s leadership, the foundation provides grants to nonprofit organizations in Monroe and Ontario counties, funding educational, cultural, religious and entrepreneurial endeavors that have the potential to make a positive impact on the community. In 2012, the foundation launched the First in Family Scholarship Program, which allows students at nine institutions of higher education in Monroe and Ontario counties, including Fisher, to reach their academic goals debt-free by supporting the full costs of attending college.
In addition to providing day-to-day management of the foundation’s operations, grant making processes and oversight of its assets, she is the CEO of Farash Foundation Real Estate Management and in that capacity is responsible for the foundation’s real estate.
Prior to joining the Farash Foundation, Budd enjoyed a 31-year career at the University of Rochester. During her tenure at the University, she served as associate dean for MBA Administration and External Relations at the Simon Business School and previous to that role served as the university’s first female vice president.
Her present and past board affiliations include Connected Communities Inc., Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative Steering Committee, 2020 MicroClinic Initiative and ROC the Future, among others.
A Chicago native and a graduate of Rush Medical College in Chicago, Budd also completed graduate work at the University of Rochester and work at the Center for Creative Leadership.
The Rev. George T. Smith, superior general of the Congregation of St. Basil, will receive a President’s Medal in recognition of his leadership of the congregation.
A native of Toronto, Smith felt the call to become a Basilian as a young man headed into law school. After meeting a group of Basilians at the University of St. Michael’s College, he discovered their unique blend of priesthood, brotherhood and dedication to teaching. The Congregation of St. Basil includes about 200 men serving in colleges, high schools and parishes in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Colombia and France. Basilians based in Rochester founded Fisher in 1948 and continue to hold a strong presence on campus 70 years later.
Smith has served the Basilian Fathers in a variety of roles since his ordination in 1989, including president of St. Joseph’s College at the University of Alberta, 1993-1997, and president of Saskatoon’s St. Thomas More College, 2000-10.
He also served on the Basilian General Council for four years as a general councilor responsible for higher education and finances. In 2010, he was elected superior general of the Congregation of St. Basil at the Basilian Fathers’ General Chapter in Rochester and then elected for a second term in 2014.
In 2005, Father Smith was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Medal, which is given to Canadians who have made outstanding and exemplary contributions to their communities and Canada as a whole.